Kevin Williamson's new psychological serial killer drama The Following is finally just around the corner from premiering, so FOX brought its creator and stars to Los Angeles to address the critics, LA TV Insider Examiner included, at the winter 2013 TCA tour. Though we will have more specific show scoop and detailed individual interviews still to come, we live-blogged the Q&A session first, in order to get you as excited for the series as we are.
The Following centers on an ex-FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) who captured a charming, dastardly criminal mastermind a decade earlier. Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) was a professor, a husband, a father, an author, and a sociopath who killed young woman on his campus. When the pilot starts, Carroll escapes prison, so Hardy is called back into the bureau to consult on catching him, only this time things get much more complicated, as during his time in prison, he has amassed a fanatic following who will literally kill-- and literally die-- for him.
It is worth noting, though, that while these sessions often spend a lot of time arguing the "why" of serial killer shows, this particular show actually follows in the damaged footsteps of Hardy, which separates the audience silently from the darkness. Though it should be noted that this show is certainly not for the faint of heart, some of the scariest parts are the psychological aspect of how Carroll gets into his victims', followers', and Hardy's minds.
- "Anyone can go at anytime," Natalie Zea says regarding high fatality rate on The Following. ""Oh, it's that kind of a show. Don't get too comfortable!" Annie Parrisse adds.
- Bacon says he was looking for a "long time" for a show. "From the moment I made that decision, I started to read one amazing pilot after another. All of a sudden, the level of the scripts...just completely changed, and I was reading all of this amazing stuff. I initially thought it was going to be on cable [but] I read this one, and I could not put it down. It was such a page-turner, such an interesting character. Given the fast-paced, heart-pounding nature of it, it still had a lot of great heart and a certain kind of sentimentality that I really responded to."
- Williamson shares a story about his mother taking him to Edgar Allan Poe's home in Virginia that celebrated his work. "The Raven" was written on the walls, and you had to walk around to read it. It fascinated him, and obviously stuck with him. He hopes more will find Poe through this show.
- "When you're doing one thing, the next thing you do, you don't want to do the same thing. You always look for the differences," Williamson says on tonal differences with The Folloiwing and The Vampire Diaries. He's also happy to play with multiple generations of characters here.
- "I don't think of it as 'cable' or 'network'. The struggle to me with network television is the six-act structure and creating suspense. How do yo umake something scary when you're writing to a commercial break?" Williamson admits that has always been his personal struggle.
- Williamson calls 24 his favorite show and feels it influenced the thriller, suspense aspect when he was creating The Vampire Diaries.
- "I don't know. There's definitely some moments that are squeamish, and it's definitely not for the faint of heart, but it's not [all] of the show," Williamson says of the violence. "Some episodes I find 'Oh, wow, a lot of people died this week. So then I sit down and the next week no one dies'."
- Kyle Catlett's character is kidnapped in the premiere episode. In episode three, there is a video sent to Hardy and Claire showing his kidnappers teaching him to kill. Williamson admits they will not take that far. "It was for shock value," he says of the impact it had on the characters (but also the audience by extension). "It's all about getting at Hardy. How better to do so?"
- Williamson admits being affected by Sandy Hook and Aurora tragedies. "I know it affected me. I know what happens in the real world affects me, so when I take pen to paper, it finds its way into what I do. I don't know [how]. We'll see."
- "These are people who don't need the slighest bit of convincing to do the things they do. These are people who have joined up with him because he offers them a non-judgmental and safe place to enact the things they want to do. They are absolutely accomplices," Purefoy says about the disciples.
- "I read the book in a day and then I read it the next day, again. I was completely inspired by it, and the movie was amazing [too]," Williamson on The Silence of the Lambs.
- "I just like the good guy versus the bad guy. It's just something I gravitate towards in storytelling. Here's this guy who's not only this mad men...but at his core he's also a teacher and a very good teacher, and he's found students to do his bidding," Williamson says of Joe Carroll.
- "A serial killer, usually, you can stab them or you can stab them. How do you change that up? You've got this mad men inspiring these people and telling them to write their own stories," Williamson says of the unique murders in The Following. One guy was a firestarter in his youth and in finding Carroll, he escalates to setting a guy on fire in an early episode.
- "The acts of violence come out of people's story, out of people's backgound. It's not completely random," Purefoy adds.
- "It's meant to be a thriller with a provacative story at its root," Williamson says. NOT A ROADMAP FOR MURDER.
- "Joe Carroll can pinpoint what's missing in your life-- that void-- and he can fill it. If a person can fill such a void in your life, you might be willing to follow them to a really dark place. That's the terror of the show. Even Ryan Hardy, we show how he gets seduced by Carroll. It's a scary idea," Willamson.
- "There was a question about the three-way. I guess I shouldn't spoil, but yeah, there's a three-way" Williamson on FOX Standards and Practices' notes.
- Bacon points out that what he cares about, and what he looks forward to when reading the scripts, is the relationship and character stuff, not
- "In a lot of ways, Kevin Williamson, he may find this hard to believe, but he's kind of a softie. He's really interested in the love-story of the show, in the personal struggles that, for instance, my character's had before this relationship even began. As we will find out down the line, the history that Annie's character's had that really has to do with the human aspect of the show," Bacon.
- "He's kind of a fan boy," Shawn Ashmore says of his character, Agent Mike Weston. He wants to be the kind of agent Hardy was, and he's "engaged and interested in impressing this man. He's a little eager, but I never thought of him as creepy."
- "It's interesting to me when people will see an episode and talk about what a monster she is. I suppose she's monstrous in her acts, but what I find to be-- we talk about the core as a love story-- it's an utter love and total devotion to Joe Carroll. Everything else is a means to an end and a way to get closer to him. That to me is scarier," Valorie Curry says of her character.
- Williamson says he wrote "dummy scenes" for actors coming in to read for Denise/Emma since she only had two lines in the pilot but needed to go somewhere much deeper. Curry came in and "was the angel of death, just riveting...She's crazy!"
- Spoiler Alert! We see a flashback in which Curry's character kills her mother, and Curry was fascinated by the vulnerability and tension in the scene. "Filming that scene, I think what is the biggest surprise to me-- and to Emma-- is the feeling afterward...the utter calm, that is the surprise to me, and that informs the rest."
- "Three psychos in a house is a lot of fun to write!" Williamson on Curry, Adan Canto, and Nico Tortorella's characters.
- Bacon reminds critics he has not been as far removed from TV as one might think. "My wife was on The Closer...I directed four of those episodes." He says he likes TV's pace because it requires "more instinct and less preparation. On an on-going basis, you've really got to be able to think on your feet. As an actor, rehearsal, homework, is all really great stuff, but I think if you have a good sense on who your guy is, you should be able to be thrown into a situation and be true to who that character is-- to be able to walk in his shoes in a moment's notice, and that's what we do here."
- "I'm allowed to see almost everything, with my mom's permission," Catlett says of the show.
- "Ooh, I just want them to kiss!" One journo says of chemistry between Kevin Bacon & James Purefoy in The Following. They do on stage now, which is the only thing to get applause from the critics this week.
- "If you'r playing tennis against somebody useless, you get worse," Purefoy points out. Working with Bacon makes him better every day.
- "Anything is possible on this show," Williamson skirting a direct spoiler question about whether or not Ashmore's character will turn out to be a disciple of Carroll's, too. Williamson points out that the real point of his character is how he's trying to bond with Hardy and how that makes Hardy uncomfortable.
-"It's a complicated relationship," Williamson says of Canto, Curry, and Tortorella's characters.
- "One thing they do, is they lie. They sell you something that does not exist, but they're warm. They have a way of touching you, of finding out what you're missing, and they offer it up, and they sell it in a way that has you following," Williamson on cult leaders. He is fascinated by Jonestown and Manson. But he points out, again, that something has to be within the followers first to even follow at all.
- "They co-exist nicely," Natalie Zea says of her role on The Following and still being apart of Justified.
- "I've been really fortunate to not have a lot of excess baggage to have to play under the surface because everything that's going on is so crazy and heartbreaking and horrific. It's great as an actor because you don't really have to put forth that much effort," Zea laughs of her character's external, present issues, rather than the mental strain of 'how did I marry this man?'
- Williamson will be introducing other dark characters to play with what their psychoses are compared to Carroll: "What is it that pushed them over the edge?" He says a lot of it is their backstories. He utilizes flashbacks to show the pivotal turns they took-- both the wrong and right way-- to show who they are.
- "With Ryan Hardy and Joe Carroll, he's the hero, who is surrounded by death...and so he carries the weight of every victim on him, and he has this compulsion to save lives. In a way, he has a death wish because he will walk into the room full of killers to save the one person," Williamson says, noting the juxtaposition of the two guys and their cat and mouse is what's interesting.
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